23 October 2013

October 23rd

The Walking Dead 3.12: "Clear" (2013) directed by Tricia Brock
Though Rick, Carl, and Michonne return to the Grimes' hometown, we see nothing familiar from the pilot episode.  How about Rick walking by and seeing an even more decomposed bicycle girl zombie?  She's like this series' Bub or that zombie with worms in his eyes on the poster of Zombie 2.  C'mon, man.  Missed opportunity.

There was a great mini-story in this episode: the backpacker.  Rick and company drive by a poor guy with a hiking pack on.  He screams for them to stop and briefly chases their car as they ignore him.  Later, the car gets stuck and the backpacker nearly catches up.  They again ignore the poor guy and leave him behind.  During their return trip after their adventures in town, they spy a giant splatter of gore on the road near the guy's backpack.  No one says anything.  This is truly the grimmest part of the world they now live in.  Forget the skirmish between the prison and Woodbury.  That stuff hardly matters.  Being so paranoid of other, living people that you ignore their cries for help; that you don't care whether they getting eaten or not; that you can turn away from all of this and go on with your day... the loss of humanity is the true tragedy of the zombie apocalypse.  This is something the comic series captures incredibly well and I'll glad to see a glimmer here.

Maniac (1980) directed by William Lustig
Maybe I'm getting old, but I can understand the freakout the film caused back in 1980.  The movie doesn't really have a plot.  It's just a sleazy-looking Joe Spinell killing and scalping woman after woman as he talks to himself.  If there's a story here, it's that the best we can hope for is that crazies like Frank will eventually descend into madness and despair deep enough to kill themselves.  My gut says this film was just slapped together as a series of special effects/gore pieces in order to enter the then-new slasher market, with Spinell creating the abused and insane Frank as a way to connect everything and show off his acting chops.

Then, of course, there's the utterly bizarre relationship between Frank and Anna.  Grabbing her address from her bag in Central Park, Frank shows up unannounced at Anna's apartment.  Rather than freaking out ("How did you get my address!?"), she invites him in and quickly agrees to a date.  It's so absurd -- especially given the, ahem, major difference in attractiveness between the two -- it's tempting to interpret this as Frank's fantasy.  If that were true, that makes his killing of Anna's model friend Rita a fantasy, as he wouldn't have really been at the photo shoot to grab Rita's necklace.  In fact, the entire last half of the film would have to take place in Frank's head.  Knowing that Caroline Munro was given the part of the "heroine" of the film by her producer husband, I think this bit was simply shoved into the movie because they needed the guy's $200,000 to finish the thing.

Vintage Tom Savini gore effects (the shotgun blast is truly excellent) and Spinell's manic performance are really the only two reasons to watch this film these days.  Even so, you'll still feel like you'll need a shower once the end credits begin rolling.

Watched: blu-ray from Blue Underground.

Maniac 2: Mr. Robbie
This promo reel is on the Maniac blu-ray (and DVD, if I remember).  Joe Spinell plays Mr. Robbie, a children's show host haunted by the letters he receives from children about the abuse they suffer.  It's only Maniac, Part 2 in the loosest sense, but I would've liked to have seen the full feature.  Spinell killing child abusers in a slasher style?  Yes, please.

Maniac (2012) directed by Franck Khalfoun
Like The Fly and The Thing, this remake is so good it diminishes the original.  Every thing that was wrong or didn't make sense or wasn't done well in the original is completely repaired in the remake.  This is how you do a remake.

I was worried that the first person gimmick might quickly wear out its welcome.  I was thinking of how motion sick I got when I watched [REC] some years ago.  No worries.  The first person perspective is shot with a steady-cam, making the images flow nicely.  It also matches how our brains actually work: our mind smooths out the jumpy visuals fed to it by our eyes.

And, it's not a gimmick.  Like the reverse chronology of Memento, the first person perspective is necessary to understand the main character's experience.  This is the closest you can come -- well, short of certain illegal substances -- to insanity.  It's very intense at times.  We're forced to ride in this man's head as he does all sorts of things, from the horrible to the horribly awkward.  Certain small touches sell the idea very well.  Frank will sometimes gets distracted and glance away from a person talking to him.  His eyes drift downwards towards Anna's breasts.  He stares at people for too long.  It's very realistic and I'm very impressed at how well it came off.

What they've done with the story, compared to the original, if fairly amazing.  They've stuck very close to the original story, but gave it a real structure and filled in the numerous gaps.  Most significantly, Frank's relationship with Anna actually makes sense this time out.  She's an artist into mannequins.  Frank has a shop full of mannequins.  That they share a common interest goes very far into explaining why the beautiful Anna hangs out with the creepy Frank.  From there they make Anna into Frank's desperate attempt at normalcy.  Though, having see and heard the world through Frank's unstable senses, we as the audience know this will not end well.

They referenced the controversial poster for the original (above) in the movie using a distorted reflection of Frank on the side of a car (left).  I am blown away.  This is a reflection -- no pun -- of just how the respectful the remake is of the original.  It's these little things.  They use the same names (Frank, Anna, Rita).  The beats of the plot mostly follow the original (Rita's experience in her apartment with Frank, a woman separated from her friends and chased in a subway, the mannequins coming to life at the end), but they cut the things that don't actually contribute to the story (the shotgun killing of the couple, the prostitute).  Hell, even the color scheme of this version's poster is a riff on the colors of Frank's walls in the original (teal and purple).  They didn't have to do any of this.  That they did makes it feel like they found a crappy thrift store painting of a clown, cleaned it up, added some things, and created a disturbing portrait of Pennywise in its place.

This, this is how you do a remake.

Watched: stream on Netflix.


  1. The remake of "Maniac" truly impressed me. I'm a fan of the original, love that sleazy atmosphere, but the remake just blows it out of the water. The first person device not only puts us inside of Frank's head but also makes him sympathetic without diminishing the horror of his actions. And the score for this thing was phenomenal, one of my favorite scores in a long time. It was a truly fantastic film, best horror movie of the year. (Probably.)

  2. Well said. I'm cutting back on my disc purchases lately, but immediately grabbed this one from Amazon after watching it. An incredible achievement.